On the door it says Tavern 62 by David Burke. That tells us the prankster chef who lost his name in a dispute with his partners is in play again. He got his new collaborator to take back his old Fishtail digs, and he’s spruced up the place with Hawaiian salt bricks glowing at the door, tufted leather banquettes, handsome new tiles on the parlor floor and paintings from his own collection.
Years pass and chefs mature, but there’s no need to fret that Burke might grow stodgy. A few bruises and a lull between projects have just given him time to dream up new tricks. The man who conceived of the numbered swordfish chop and patented salmon pastrami sends out his first delicious new stunt in a silver toast holder tonight. They are four thin disks of Boston brown bread with raisins and jalapeno toast baked in tin cans, served with red pepper jam and butter on a salt slab alongside.
The chef himself arrives with the next punch line: candied bacon dangling from a wood-and-string gallows, held on with clothespins. Housemade pickles counteract the sweetness. Yes, he’s pleased with himself. We’re giggling too. The bacon is fabulous. But so is the Angry Lobster Scramble—a large bowl of lobster and shrimp with chile heat, tucked into soft eggy mounds that we pile on croutons delivered standing up in the bowl. I’m not sure why it needs basil-colored creme fraiche, but it makes a pretty picture.
Cuts of little gem lettuce dressed with horseradish and buttermilk sit on rounds of sweet crimson beets with slabs of goat cheese and pistachio bits. A wonderful salad. Poke is the new octopus, so of course, there’s a peppery tuna poke with avocado rolled into cucumber thins and decorated with puffed quinoa sprinkles. That doesn’t eliminate octopus carpaccio as a starter too. I just didn’t have a chance to taste it in two dinners.
Friends who know my weakness for macaroni aren’t surprised when I order the $18 side of Millionaire’s Mac and Cheese as my first course. It’s big enough, so I don’t mind sharing. Frankly, the macaroni and cheese concept is somewhat overwhelmed by the nouveau richness of lobster, shrimp and truffle.
The circumspect can order whole roasted branzino or ginger-black pepper salmon. And something green: broccolini and pearl onions, but probably not creamed spinach or caramelized Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. (Too much like candy.)
Roasted sea scallops sitting on corned beef cheeks with cabbage and fried quail eggs is another invention that works. That is, only one of my three friends is offended. Duck Duck Duck, normally delivered for two at $78, features many slices of rare duck breast and a luscious foie gras pastry “dumpling.” My companions had no problem persuading the captain to deliver a single portion. But I was recognized at the door and that can mean no one says no to any request at my table.